Like cricketers, umpires too have to go through the grind before they are deemed fit to officiate in an international game. While we are well aware of the role coaches play in grooming a cricketer, a similar role is also in practice for the match officials. Young umpires are being groomed by senior officials who share their knowledge and prepare them for the tough task ahead.
Veteran umpire SK Bansal talks about coaching young umpires in an interview with BCCI.TV
As part of the review committee, some of us senior umpires travelled to various venues and observed performances of young umpires. We would observe their body language, appearance and alertness on the field. We noticed the decisions made by them for no balls, wide balls and other modes of dismissals. We made notes and gave marks, and passed on the information to the Board. Our job was to see that the mistakes committed on the field of play were reduced and eventually eliminated.
What would the review committee do with the data that was collected?
If it was observed that lbw decisions made by some umpires were not up to the mark, then they were called to the BCCI Umpires Academy in Nagpur and given lectures for about a week. They were apprised of the mistakes made and how they can overcome their doubts. You are bound to make mistakes and if you are being observed by somebody, it means there is a definite scope for improvement.
Was there a similar concept during your time as well?
During my time, we did not even have books on the law. We were guided by our senior umpires. Earlier, I would sit at one corner of the Karnail Singh Stadium in Delhi and read out the laws to young umpires to help them prepare. The BCCI is doing a wonderful job now. There are regular classes on the laws of the game, reviews and very soon the Academy in Nagpur is going to start functioning again. We will have a new batch in January.
What is the central topic of discussion in your conversations with young umpires?
I give lectures to umpires at Vidarbha Cricket Association and Uttar Pradesh Cricket Association. I teach the boys for three hours in the morning and then again in the evening. I am interested in talking laws to as many people as possible. The first thing I teach them is laws. The other aspect is how to implement those laws. If a bowling side makes one strong appeal, you should not be trembling. You should be certain about your decision.
A batsman is always told to focus on the next ball and concentrate all over again. Is it the same for an umpire as well?
I tell them to forget everything around them and focus on the task. It is easier said than done, but you have to do it. If you give a wrong decision in a big match, the media will highlight it and it puts more pressure on you. If you have made a mistake, you have to think what went wrong and overcome that and not let it hamper you.
So do you share your experiences to help them understand better?
Yes, experience is the best teacher. I encourage them to give right decisions under pressure. Umpiring is an art with courage. When I officiated in the Eden Gardens, Test match against Australia (VVS Laxman hit 281), there were over one lakh people inside and countless people outside the stadium. The support for the Indian team was massive and it was very difficult to concentrate. The ball was pitching and moving. My job was to detach from the all the noise around and channelize all my energies on the movement of the ball. That was certainly the high point of my career. It was something very different. I tell the boys that there will also be a day in their career and they must not be overawed by the occasion.